From the anti-Jewish blood libels of the Old World to the modern mythology of tainted Halloween candy in the New, public hysteria usually begins with the idea that unseen forces are conspiring to poison us or kill our children.
This article in Resurgence magazine, The Heart of Darkness: Small is not always beautiful, is such a perfect example of how the misrepresentations, distortions and half-truths that I've outlined previously on this blog are all coalescing into anti-nano dogma. Just when I start thinking that perhaps I place too much importance on public perception, I read something like this to affirm that I'm on the right track here. Even forgetting for a moment my sense of outrage as a journalist as I watch repeated distortions and assumptions morph their way into established truths, as an amateur student of historical trends it's fascinating to watch the process happen.
I don't mean to pick on these authors, Lee-Anne Broadhead and Sean Howard. I'm sure they're very committed and knowledgeable people and I could have found a number of these types of articles at random, but this one struck me as fairly all-encompassing, so I decided to pick it apart a bit.
- The key to this minuscule music of the spheres is self-replication: atoms capable of reproducing themselves, building themselves up 'block by block' into whatever form we, the Masters, choose - supermaterials, superorgans or supercells, supercomputers, etc.
- The end of the natural world is, incredibly, the explicit, celebrated goal of much pro-nanotechnology literature and propaganda.
- A debate over the promise and perils of the atomic-engineering revolution has been going on for some time now, but until Prince Charles's timely and astute intervention in April 2003 the discussion was conducted away from the glare of the mainstream media and thus popular consciousness.
- THE LACK OF public scrutiny of this fundamental new scientific direction is upsetting for a number of reasons ...
- Eager to point to the potential benefits of this latest attempt to manipulate matter in the aid of human 'progress', the scientists involved in this research see no reason for public participation in any debate about their chosen projects. What, after all, could there be to discuss? For the celebrants of this new conjunction of biology, physics, chemistry, information technology and artificial intelligence, this is all a self-evidently positive step forward. Their message is quite clear: leave it to the experts and wait for the benefits to flow.
- Some sceptical scientists, for example, are warning about the possibility that in creating tiny nanoprobes to deliver drugs more precisely, we could be creating the 'next asbestos' ...
- Indeed, listening to the charge of Drexler and Sainsbury towards the Brave New Nanoworld, one sometimes wonders which century the world just, barely, lived through - surely not the century of chemical, biological and nuclear warfare, global warming, acid rain and Frankenfoods?
There is more, but I'll stop here for now. You get the idea. It's obvious that in this initial phase of public discussion, the thoughtful ones are not controlling the agenda. But those who follow trends in scientific progress and social change tell me that this deliberate spreading of misinformation is "textbook." Over time, the truth will prevail. It could be years, it could be centuries.